Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Fast Company/Neal Ungerleider: Inside The Vatican-Blessed Tech Accelerator Tackling Climate Change

Fast Company

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Inside The Vatican-Blessed Tech Accelerator Tackling Climate Change

Inspired by Pope Francis’s call for global action on climate change, two venture capitalists launch the Laudato Si Startup Challenge—at the Holy See.

Inside The Vatican-Blessed Tech Accelerator Tackling Climate Change
[Photo: Flickr user Lucía García González]

By Neal Ungerleider 3 minute Read

When Pope Francis met Donald Trump last month, he raised eyebrows by handing the U.S. president his 2015 papal letter on global warming. The Laudato Si—On Care for Our Common Home pins climate change on humanity and calls for international action to save the planet.
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It was days before Trump withdrew from the historic Paris Climate Accord that had been signed by nearly every nation. The Vatican called it a “slap in the face.”

Trump may have not been inspired by the Pope’s encyclical—he promised Francis he would read it—but others have been, including two venture capitalists behind the Laudato Si Startup Challenge.Yes, the Vatican has a tech accelerator–and it’s focused on launching startups that tackle climate change.
Demo Day At The Vatican

Companies participating in the Laudato Si Challenge will receive $100,000 in seed funding in exchange for a 6% to 8% equity investment, and expert mentorship. Participating companies will initially receive four months of remote mentoring, and then travel to Rome for two months of in-person work. It all culminates in a Demo Day—a tech accelerator tradition where startups present their companies to an audience—at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in the Vatican.

While companies don’t receive funding from the Catholic Church, and all investment comes from private sources, the accelerator enjoys close ties to the Vatican.

“Laudato Si functions like a typical accelerator program with capital investment, equity, mentorship, and guidance,” program director Paul Orlando told Fast Company. “There is a demo day at the end, but the twist is that all of the companies that are selected fit in one way or another into a number of big global problem areas that the pope identified in his encyclical.”

Companies applying for the accelerator were encouraged to focus on seven specific challenges: Energy, food, water, crowded cities, human potential, conservation, and finance.
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Participants are not required to be Catholic and the program is open to founders of all backgrounds.
Inspired By Pope Francis

The Laudato Si Challenge is the brainchild of Stephen Forte, Fresco Capital‘s managing director, and Eric Harr of Imagine Ventures (and one of Fast Company‘s Most Creative People). In a Medium post, Forte says that the inspiration for the accelerator comes from both Pope Francis’s encyclical and the Vatican’s own interest in impact investing.

“We select companies that are doing their own work and innovation that are making the world better in these areas,” Orlando says. “I don’t think anything like this has been done before—the combination of the for-profit and a very old institution that has a deep understanding and interest in these things around the world.”

For the Laudato Si Challenge’s investors, who include venture capitalists Ibrahim Al-Husseini and Caitlin Sparks of the FullCycle Energy Fund and Google Jolly Good Fellow Chade-Meng Tan, the goal is simple: Take inspiration from the pope’s encyclical, and make an investment in for-profit companies whose technology will make the world a better place.

The fact that the Vatican is involved with the accelerator just makes things more interesting.

Orlando, a professor at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business who runs USC’s own tech incubator and previously cofounded a tech accelerator in Hong Kong, says he was taken aback when first contacted about working at the Vatican.

However, after diving into the accelerator’s mission, Orlando found that “It actually makes a lot of sense. The pope himself is speaking about these things, has written about it and actually called out leaders in business, and said there’s an opportunity for you to address.”


This of course, brings us to Pope Francis’s TED talk.
TED, Accelerators, And The Vatican

In his recent TED talk, Pope Francis called on tech firms to do more to combat social and environmental ills. Speaking to attendees, many of whom come from the tech world, Francis added:

“How wonderful would it be if the growth of scientific and technological innovation would come along with more equality and social inclusion. How wonderful would it be, while we discover faraway planets, to rediscover the needs of the brothers and sisters orbiting around us. How wonderful would it be if solidarity—this beautiful and, at times, inconvenient word—were not simply reduced to social work and became, instead, the default attitude in political, economic, and scientific choices, as well as in the relationships among individuals, peoples, and countries.”

The Laudato Si Challenge is one response to the pope’s call to action. It’s also an undoubtedly unique one: Religious institutions don’t involve themselves every day with tech accelerators or incubators.

But it also comes with a unique payoff. Companies participating won’t just inch their way toward profitability and growth: They’ll also contribute to a better world. And, in the process, get to pitch their startup in Vatican City.



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    06.06.17 new money

These MIT Grads Want To Let Anyone Invest In, Or Even Start, A Bitcoin Fund
Cryptocurrency can be intimidating, but a new platform called Catalyst would enable investors to build their own investment funds.
These MIT Grads Want To Let Anyone Invest In, Or Even Start, A Bitcoin Fund
[Photo: Flickr user cweyant]

By Steven Melendez4 minute Read

In recent months, the prices of virtual currencies bitcoin and ethereum have soared to record highs amid increased investor interest.
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On June 1, bitcoin traded at $2,429.20—up from just $536.42 a year before. Newer rival ethereum was priced at $214.84, a more-than-1,300% gain over its price of $13.96 a year previously, according to data from bitcoin news and information service CoinDesk.

But for many would-be investors, cryptocurrency can be intimidating. The purely digital currencies, which enable transactions through cryptographically secure, shared ledgers known as blockchains, are ultimately built around esoteric mathematical concepts and open source code. Heated debates among their developers about how that code should evolve are not unheard of, sometimes precipitating wild swings in the currencies’ trading prices that can make it difficult for casual investors to make sense of when to buy or sell. And users of at least two major bitcoin exchanges that trade the currency for traditional funds have been the victims of multimillion-dollar digital heists.

“A lot of people are starting to look into it, and invest in it, but it’s still very much kind of like the Wild West,” says Guy Zyskind, cofounder and CEO of Bay Area startup Enigma.

Enigma, started by a group of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) graduates, aims to help change that with a platform announced this week called Catalyst, which would enable ambitious cryptocurrency investors to effectively build their own investment funds, using algorithms of their own choosing to decide when to buy and sell the currencies. Catalyst would track their performance on a digital leaderboard, and ultimately other users of the platform would be able to invest their own money in the funds, likely paying management and performance-based fees to fund managers as with traditional investment funds.

“In the normal stock market, a lot of the trading is being done by AI today,” says Zyskind. “We’ve seen similar demand coming in the cryptocurrency space.”

The company plans to open a beta version of the platform to developers in about two months, enabling them to upload code representing their preferred trading strategies to the platform and begin developing track records of making or losing money. After perhaps six months to a year, as fund leaders’ records start to become clear, the company hopes to open the site to outside investors, letting them place investments with the funds of their choosing.

“To prevent short-lived strategies from being overrepresented, we will favor strategies that have been robust to different market conditions and have built a longer track record over time,” the founders write in a white paper.
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Zyskind says the company may initially be required to limit access to trading to so-called qualified investors, who under federal securities regulations are generally people with annual incomes of $200,000 or at least $1 million in assets, considered to be enough that they can invest in riskier opportunities. Regulators have taken a somewhat cautious approach to letting rank-and-file investors dabble in cryptocurrency. The Securities and Exchange Commission is currently reviewing a ruling blocking the Winklevoss twins from launching an exchange-traded fund—that is, one in which investors can buy and sell shares similarly to how they buy and sell stock—focusing on bitcoin, amid concern that the wider bitcoin market is relatively unregulated and potentially subject to market manipulation.

“From a vision perspective, we would like to be able to enable the average Joes to be able to invest in these technologies as well,” says Can Kisagun, chief product officer at Enigma.

Right now, investors looking to experiment with more sophisticated trading strategies are often limited to using off-the-shelf, open source trading bots, Zyskind says.

“You have to get your hands in some existing and not well-documented open source projects,” he says. That can be a bit intimidating for investors, even those with a coding background, since a malfunction when trading can potentially be quite costly.

A previous project by the Enigma team sought to use a bitcoin-style blockchain and sophisticated cryptography to let consumers share confidential data with big companies, whether for surveys or for transactions like bank loans, on terms they could control. But the project was slow to gain traction with the big enterprise companies who’d need to participate to make the platform work, Zyskind says.

In Catalyst, Enigma plans to make various datasets available for use in automated trading decisions, from historic price information to analyses of the overall sentiment of news stories and social media posts about cryptocurrencies. The company plans to also invite users to create their own datasets and make them available—perhaps for a fee—to those setting up funds and looking for mathematical indicators of how and when to trade.

“Since the ecosystem surrounding crypto-markets is still in its early days, relevant data sources are scarce and fragmented,” write the Enigma founders in the white paper. “We plan to change the landscape, bringing it to the level of more mature financial markets.”
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That, in turn, might help make the market more attractive both to would-be fund managers and to ordinary investors, not just tech-savvy crypto fans.

“I think we’re just at the beginning,” says Zyskind. “I don’t think any one of us knows how big it could be.”
About the author

Steven Melendez is an independent journalist living in New Orleans.

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    05.11.16 your most productive self

Your Brain Has A “Delete” Button–Here’s How To Use It
This is the fascinating way that your brain makes space to build new and stronger connections so you can learn more.
Your Brain Has A “Delete” Button–Here’s How To Use It
[Photo: NICHD/P. Basser]

By Judah Pollack and Olivia Fox Cabane3 minute Read

There’s an old saying in neuroscience: neurons that fire together wire together. This means the more you run a neuro-circuit in your brain, the stronger that circuit becomes. This is why, to quote another old saw, practice makes perfect. The more you practice piano, or speaking a language, or juggling, the stronger those circuits get.
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"The ability to learn is about more than building and strengthening neural connections."

For years this has been the focus for learning new things. But as it turns out, the ability to learn is about more than building and strengthening neural connections. Even more important is our ability to break down the old ones. It’s called “synaptic pruning.” Here’s how it works.
Your Brain’s Delete Button And How to Use It
Your Brain Is Like A Garden

Imagine your brain is a garden, except instead of growing flowers, fruits, and vegetables, you grow synaptic connections between neurons. These are the connections that neurotransmitters like dopamine, seratonin, and others travel across.

“Glial cells” are the gardeners of your brain–they act to speed up signals between certain neurons. But other glial cells are the waste removers, pulling up weeds, killing pests, raking up dead leaves. Your brain’s pruning gardeners are called “microglial cells.” They prune your synaptic connections. The question is, how do they know which ones to prune?

Researchers are just starting to unravel this mystery, but what they do know is the synaptic connections that get used less get marked by a protein, C1q (as well as others). When the microglial cells detect that mark, they bond to the protein and destroy–or prune–the synapse.

This is how your brain makes the physical space for you to build new and stronger connections so you can learn more.
Why Sleep Matters

Have you ever felt like your brain is full? Maybe when starting a new job, or deep in a project. You’re not sleeping enough, even though you’re constantly taking in new information. Well, in a way, your brain actually is full.

When you learn lots of new things, your brain builds connections, but they’re inefficient, ad hoc connections. Your brain needs to prune a lot of those connections away and build more streamlined, efficient pathways. It does that when we sleep.


Your brain cleans itself out when you sleep–your brain cells shrinking by up to 60% to create space for your glial gardeners to come in take away the waste and prune the synapses.

Have you ever woken up from a good night’s rest and been able to think clearly and quickly? That’s because all the pruning and pathway-efficiency that took place overnight has left you with lots of room to take in and synthesize new information–in other words, to learn.
"Thinking with a sleep-deprived brain is like hacking your way through a dense jungle with a machete. Its overgrown, slow going, exhausting. "

This is the same reason naps are so beneficial to your cognitive abilities. A 10- or 20-minute nap gives your microglial gardeners the chance to come in, clear away some unused connections, and leave space to grow new ones.

Thinking with a sleep-deprived brain is like hacking your way through a dense jungle with a machete. It’s overgrown, slow-going, exhausting. The paths overlap, and light can’t get through. Thinking on a well-rested brain is like wandering happily through Central Park; the paths are clear and connect to one another at distinct spots, the trees are in place, you can see far ahead of you. It’s invigorating.
Be Mindful Of What You’re Mindful Of

And in fact, you actually have some control over what your brain decides to delete while you sleep. It’s the synaptic connections you don’t use that get marked for recycling. The ones you do use are the ones that get watered and oxygenated. So be mindful of what you’re thinking about.

If you spend too much time reading theories about the end of Game of Thrones and very little on your job, guess which synapses are going to get marked for recycling?

Related

    Five Everyday Activities That Hurt Your Memory
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If you’re in a fight with someone at work and devote your time to thinking about how to get even with them, and not about that big project, you’re going to wind up a synaptic superstar at revenge plots but a poor innovator.


To take advantage of your brain’s natural gardening system, simply think about the things that are important to you. Your gardeners will strengthen those connections and prune the ones that you care about less. It’s how you help the garden of your brain flower.

Judah Pollack is the co-author of The Chaos Imperative, and Olivia Fox Cabane is the author of The Charisma Myth.




    05.01.17 career evolution

I’m Facebook’s Head Of People–Here’s What We’re Hiring For Right Now (And Why)
Facebook recruiters want to hear about your absolute best day at work, even if it wasn’t your typical workday.
I’m Facebook’s Head Of People–Here’s What We’re Hiring For Right Now (And Why)
It makes sense to focus on strengths. [Photo: courtesy of Facebook]

By Lori Goler3 minute Read

When I joined Facebook in 2008, we could’ve fit all of the company’s employees into a single movie theater. There were just a few hundred of us, mostly based in Palo Alto. Now, nine years later, we’d need a stadium. As the company has grown nearly 35 times–to 17,000 people in more than 50 offices in 30 countries–we’ve recruited entire teams we never imagined we’d need.


So it’s no surprise that our recruiting process has had to evolve with us. Here are three key factors we want job candidates at Facebook to show our recruiters and hiring managers–no matter at what level, on which team, or where in the world we’re hiring.

Related: This Is How To Get Hired At Facebook In 2017
1. Your Strengths (Well Proven Or Otherwise)

Yes, this sounds totally obvious, but it isn’t in practice. Very few companies actually work hard enough to understand and identify candidates’ talents, then successfully match those to their hiring needs. In fact, some recruiting experts suggest that past performance isn’t a good indicator of how someone will do on the job–that hiring for potential is often smarter than hiring for performance.

But sometimes the things somebody’s already done really do hint at even greater things to come. In both cases, it makes sense to focus on strengths. People in jobs that play up their talents and let them do work they enjoy are more engaged and perform better than people in roles that don’t play to their strengths.

So I like to ask candidates, “What were you doing on your very best day at work?”–and then give them a hint: “It was probably a day when you lost track of time because you were so engrossed in your work.” We want you to do that not just on your best day but every day.
2. The Skills To Build It Yourself

Builders look at the world with fresh eyes. They see things that are good, but could be better, and figure out how to make it so. Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg still really likes to code; just last year he built an artificial intelligence system for his own home. We look for candidates who’ve got that same building mind-set, whether they’re applying for executive roles or internships.

Hyla Wallis, a university recruiting programs manager, who hires hundreds of Facebook’s interns, told Fast Company recently about “a student who actually collected a database to show events or activities [and] volunteering opportunities within their community.” This information wasn’t all in one spot, so the candidate “built something and shared it out,” Wallis said.


If you can show a hiring manager at Facebook something you yourself thought of, put together on your own, and then convinced other people to start using, you’ll stand a better chance of sticking out.

Related: Here’s What It Takes To Start Your Career At Facebook, BuzzFeed, Nike, And Refinery29
3. Comfort With Learning The Hard Way

Tomorrow’s technology depends on the imagination of the people we hire today, which demands genuine intellectual curiosity, not just a great GPA. This kind of learning often involves risk-taking and resilience–and it isn’t always easy to find.

While other companies might look for people with a constant stream of successes to point to, we look for a steep learning curve. Have you tried something really hard and failed the first time, and the second, maybe even the third–and learned from it? You can’t envision and iterate on brand-new platforms, devices, or uses for AI and virtual reality without a deep and serious love of learning–not to mention the resilience to push through the stumbles along the way.

So when you’re interviewing for a job at Facebook, don’t hesitate to talk about the blunders you’ve made in the pursuit of big ideas–we want to hear about those as much as your wins. If you’re a builder with a learning mind-set, give your strengths some real thought first: What are you good at? What have you tried to make? And what did you learn from the experience–no matter how it went? If you can explain that, then Facebook might be the right place for you to do the very best work of your career.

Lori Goler is Head of People at Facebook.




    08.27.14 work smart

Templates And Hints For The Perfect Email For Almost Every Situation
If every email you sent was perfectly phrased and well-received right out of the inbox, how much time could you save?
Templates And Hints For The Perfect Email For Almost Every Situation
[Business: Kazoka via Shutterstock]

By Kevan Lee10 minute Read

Have you ever received an amazing email, one that you’d like to print out and pin to your wall, one that made you grin from ear to ear or slow-clap in appreciation and reverence?
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When I come across these gems, I drop them into a “Snippets” folder. I study them, I swoon over them, and I borrow bits and pieces of them to send better email.

Now imagine that every email you send is as great as these occasional all-stars you receive. Impossible? Not at all. Worth shooting for? Definitely.

Related: Six Ways To Write Emails That Don’t Make People Silently Resent You

At Buffer, we strive for 100% awesomeness in the emails we send to customers, and that pursuit of excellence carries over to the emails we send to teammates, colleagues, friends, and family. We want to send better email, the kind that delivers the intended message plus the desired emotion.

So I’m happy to share some of my sources of email inspiration. These are the templates and snippets that have caught my attention over the past few months, and which I’m hoping to include in more of my communication in the inbox. Think you might like to try any of these out in your daily emailing?
An email template for shaving 20 hours off your work week

Author Robbie Abed took to LinkedIn to share a pair of emails that he had used successfully to shave his workweek from 60 hours to 40 hours.

Here is email number one, which is to be sent on Monday.


    Subject: My plan for the week

    Jane,

    After reviewing my activities here is my plan for the week in order of priority. Let me know if you think I should re-prioritize:

    Planned Major Activities for the week

    1) Complete project charter for X Project

    2) Finish the financial analysis report that was started last week

    3) Kick off Project X–requires planning and prep documentation creation. Scheduled for Thursday.

    Open items that I will look into, but won’t get finished this week

    1) Coordinate activities for year-end financial close

    2) Research Y product for our shared service team

    Let me know if you have any comments. Thank you!

    –Robbie

The clear intention here is to set the expectation for the week ahead and give a supervisor a clear understanding of what you’re working on.

Then, on Friday, you send a second email, summarizing what you completed during the week and noting any open items that need further attention or follow-up from colleagues.

Related: The Only Five Email Folders Your Inbox Will Ever Need

The idea here is simple: Set expectations early on in the week and follow through at the end of the week. According to Abed, this provides clear boundaries on your time, it shows your supervisor that you are responsible and organized, and–if everything goes according to plan–it might get you out of the office on Friday having worked zero overtime.
How Michael Hyatt says no to guest bloggers

Author and speaker Michael Hyatt gets a lot of email requests for a lot of different things. One of the most popular requests is for guest blogging – either bloggers who wish to submit guest posts to his site or other sites looking for Hyatt to write for theirs.

Here’s how he says no to guest blog pitches.

    Dear [name]:

    Thanks for your interest in being a guest blogger on my site. I am grateful that you took the time to write this post and submit it. Unfortunately, I don’t think I will be able to use it.

    I have received scores of submissions–more than I expected. As a result, I am having to turn down many well-written posts, including yours. Sometimes this is because the topics overlap or the posts are too general for my audience. Regardless, because of my time constraints, I can’t really provide more detailed feedback.

    I wish you the best in your writing endeavors. If you have another post, I would be happy to consider it.

    Kind regards,

    Michael

Here’s how he says no to invitations to guest blog.
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    Dear [name]:

    Thanks so much for thinking of me as a potential guest blogger. I am honored.

    Unfortunately, I just don’t have the time. It is all I can do to keep up with my own blog! As a result, I’m afraid I will have to decline your kind invitation.

    Again, thanks for thinking of me.

    Kind regards,

    Michael

I’ve been on the sending and receiving end of similar emails several times over the past few months. I happened to save a favorite “thanks but no thanks” snippet that I thought sounded appreciative and kind yet still said no.

    I’d love to take part and it sounds like an amazing opportunity. Unfortunately I’ll have to pass, as I’m currently a little over-committed and won’t be able to make the time right now.

Related: Here’s When You Should Use Email Instead Of Slack
Email snippets for saying no

In the examples above, Michael Hyatt said no to guest blogging. That’s a great start. And what about the scores of other opportunities we may need to turn down throughout the week?

Elizabeth Grace Saunders, a time coach and trainer, shared a series of snippets for saying no in a post published on 99U. She seemingly had a “no” snippet for any scenario. Here are a few of my favorites.

When you receive perpetual last-minute requests:

    I would love to help you out, but I already made commitments to other (coworkers, clients, etc.) to complete their projects today. It wouldn’t be fair to them to not follow through on what I said I would do. I will be sure to fit this in as soon as possible. Thanks for your understanding.

When people ask you about everything instead of directly contacting the appropriate person:

    That’s not my area of expertise. I would be happy to connect you with someone who could best help you solve this problem.

When you’re given an exceptionally short deadline:
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    I know this project is a high priority for you, and if it’s absolutely necessary for me to turn something in by that date, I can make it happen. But if I could have a few more (days, weeks, etc.), I could really deliver something of higher quality. Would it be possible for me to have a bit more time?

When asked to do something optional that you can’t commit to right now:

    I appreciate you thinking of me, and I’m honored by the request. But unfortunately, I don’t have the time to give this my best right now. I think you would benefit from finding someone who can devote more time and energy to this project.

Related: How To Cut Your Email Time In Half
7 simple sentences to set better boundaries

Could it even be as simple as a sentence? Wharton professor Adam Grant has a pretty quick list of seven different sentences that might work to set boundaries on your work/home life. Here’s the list:

    The Deferral: “I’m swamped right now, but feel free to follow up.”
    The Referral: “I’m not qualified to do what you’re asking, but here’s something else.”
    The Introduction: “This isn’t in my wheelhouse, but I know someone who might be helpful.”
    The Bridge: “You two are working toward common goals.”
    The Triage: “Meet my colleague, who will set up a time to chat.”
    The Batch: “Others have posed the same question, so let’s chat together.”
    The Relational Account: “If I helped you, I’d be letting others down.”

Of these seven, I’ve had a chance to try Nos. 1 and 3 just in the past week. The first felt great, as it truly was an opportunity I was excited to pursue yet the timing just wasn’t ideal. Sentence No. 3 felt just as good; had I committed, I would have been way in over my head. So not only was I able to set a boundary, I was able to ensure that the work was completed the best way possible.
How to send the best emails to your customers

In The Customer Support Handbook: How to Create the Ultimate Customer Experience For Your Brand, Sarah Hatter describes in expert detail exactly which words and phrases should be used in a modern-day customer conversation (and which shouldn’t).

Empty words (do not use):

    Feedback
    Inconvenience
    This issue
    That isn’t
    This isn’t
    We don’t
    No
    We’re unable to
    I can’t

Full words (use liberally):


    Thank you!
    I’m really sorry
    This sucks
    I know this is frustrating
    You’re right
    That’s a great idea!
    Let me check and get back to you
    Thanks for sharing your idea/thoughts/taking the time to help improve the product

Magic phrases:

    “You’re right.”
    “I’d love to help with this.”
    “I can fix this for you.”
    “Let me look into this for you.”
    “I’ll keep you updated.”

Power replies:

    “You’re right, we could definitely do this better.”
    “Thanks for being open and honest about your experience so we can learn from it.”
    “I really appreciate you helping us improve our process–we don’t want this to happen again.”
    “I know this is a huge disruption to your day and I’m working to get it fixed.”

I had a chance to use the “disruption” line just today with a customer who had a less-than-ideal experience. I’m not sure if my choice of words was what won him over or not. I am happy to say that he was super pleased to receive my reply–nothing to sneeze at for a customer we might have wronged.
What to say instead of “Let me know if you have any questions”

Chris Gallo at Support Ops has an interesting, applicable way of looking at that all-too-common wrap-up to the emails we send. How do you end your conversations on email? Seems like we typically choose one of these cookie-cutter sign-offs.

    “Please let me know if you have any questions.”
    “If you have any other problems, just let me know.”
    “If there is anything else you need, please let me know.”

Compare this with how you end conversations in real life. Gallo points out that none of us talk this way to our friends and family; why should we talk this way to our beloved customers?

Perhaps the best example Gallo cites is this one:

    “If there is anything else you need, please let me know.”

    Should I need something else? Am I going to need something else soon? Are you saying that I’m needy?

Instead of the stock answers, try these questions, which sound more human and feel more conversational.


    “Does this help you?”
    “Did that answer your question? And does it make sense?”
    “Anything else that I can help with today?”

(The above example comes from Chase Clemons’s Support Ops email guide, which has loads more examples, if you’re interested.)

I’ve been trying these new signoffs in my personal emails for the past couple weeks, and I will say that it can be a little disarming at first. I definitely felt the urge to end with a token platitude rather than an open-ended “Does this help you?”

Fortunately, it gets easier the more you use it. And I’ve had many meaningful conversations that I might not have had otherwise.
Out with the “buts,” in with the exclamations

This one I’ve borrowed from our Chief Happiness Officer Carolyn who wrote about her removal of every instance of “but” and “actually” from her customer support emails.

With “but,” Carolyn removes the conjunction and replaces it with an exclamation point, splitting one compound sentence into two simpler ones.

    Sentence 1: “I really appreciate you writing in, but unfortunately we don’t have this feature available.”

    Sentence 2: “I really appreciate you writing in! Unfortunately, we don’t have this feature available.”

With “actually,” she removes the word entirely, often opting for a new word or phrase to open the sentence.

    Sentence 1: “Actually, you can do this under ‘Settings.'”

    Sentence 2: “Sure thing, you can do this under ‘Settings!’ :)”

I was inspired by these examples, so much so that I’ve gone to the extreme and attempted to remove all “buts” from the blogposts I write and the conversations I have. It’s interesting, even if I’m unable to follow through 100% of the time, just to note how often the word might come up. I’m prone to use it more often than I thought.
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I’ve found that recognizing great emails is one thing, and using them is another. This is why I started cataloging the emails I love and referring to them regularly when I need inspiration on what to say. I go with a fairly straightforward copy-and-paste, which can take a bit of time. The SupportOps crew (and many of our Buffer heroes) use Text Expander to have snippets available via a keyboard shortcut.

This article originally appeared on Buffer and is reprinted with permission.



Ideas
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